File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) was forced to divert calls from people seeking help as a result of load shedding.

Despite this, it continued helping people via its SMS line, WhatsApp chat and Facebook.

Eskom implemented stage 3 load shedding yesterday.

This week, the organisation will be focusing on teenagers as it commemorates Teen Suicide Prevention week, and is calling on teenagers to join its Facebook Friday, “Ask Dr”, to discuss the topic of students and mental health.

The session will be from 1pm to 2pm with clinical psychologist Suntosh Pillay, and again at 7pm to 8pm with clinical psychologist Dr Charity Mkone.

Last year’s World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Survey results indicated that one third of first-year university students had a readily diagnosable mental health condition.

The organisation said that often students didn’t know how to get help when they were feeling helpless, hopeless, stressed and struggling to cope.

The organisation said that children in primary, high school and university were at risk of being under pressure, stressed or bullied.

Stellenbosch University Professor Jason Bantjes says that 25% of South African university students have expressed suicide ideation; at least 12% suffer from depression and a further 15% grapple with anxiety.

“Teens are the most at-risk age group for depression and suicide.

‘‘High school pupils struggle to fit in. Many high school pupils struggle with relationship issues, bullying, learning difficulties, substance abuse and family problems.”

Sadag said there were a number of reasons university students and teens might be struggling to cope.

“It can be a combination of issues such as family problems, relationships, problems with starting a new semester, the death of a loved one, a recent trauma, moving away from home, struggling to cope with the stress of academia and the pressure of university tests and exams, etc.”

Mkone said it was important for students and teenagers to remember that their mental health mattered and should be taken care of.

“We are providing a free online chat so that we can provide free help to people across the country who maybe wouldn’t be able to afford to see a professional face to face.”

To join the chats, such as Sadag’s Facebook page: The South African Depression and Anxiety Group or go to www.sadag.org

Facebook users who would like to remain anonymous can send an email to [email protected] and Sadag will ask on their behalf.

For free telephonic counselling call 0800 456 789 or send an SMS to 31393 and a counsellor will call you back.

Cape Times